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Jeffrey W. Kassing

Football Club Barcelona represents a successful modern sport entity with global influence and a celebrated past. It also has an undeniable connection to the region of Catalonia and has become in many ways a vehicle mobilized in the resurgent movement to seek Catalan independence from Spain. This case study considers how the strong and lasting link with Catalonia coupled with the club’s strategically ambiguous “mes que un club” (more than a club) motto combined to place the club in the difficult position of deciding to play a game in an empty stadium. The action, intended to be symbolic, proved questionable given the assorted stakeholders affected by the decision.

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Jeffrey W. Kassing and Jimmy Sanderson

This case study examines how fans can experience a major sporting event (cycling’s Tour of Italy) through a particular new communication technology platform—Twitter. To explore this possibility the authors tracked the “tweets” sent out by a selection of American and English-speaking riders during the 3-wk race. Their analysis of these texts revealed that Twitter served to increase immediacy between athletes and fans. This occurred as athletes provided commentary and opinions, fostered interactivity, and cultivated insider perspectives for fans. These activities position Twitter as a powerful communication technology that affords a more social vs. parasocial relationship between athletes and fans.

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Jeffrey W. Kassing and Pratik Nyaupane

This work explores the phenomenon of soccer pilgrimage (i.e., international travel by U.S.-based supporters to matches and stadia in Europe). A purposive sample of 67 pilgrims who supported a variety of clubs participated. Respondents completed a survey questionnaire designed to inquire about their experience, including why they undertook pilgrimages, how they felt about them, their reaction to having completed pilgrimages, and how they described the experience to others when asked about it. A constant comparative analysis revealed that respondents socially constructed the social atmosphere, the sacred nature, and the authenticating capacity of soccer pilgrimages. Overall, soccer pilgrimage represents a form of secular pilgrimage defined by sociality, sacrality, and liminality.

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Blair W. Browning and Jeffrey W. Kassing

Interim coaches have become commonplace in college athletics. With much at stake, they must act as leaders despite the constraints that accompany interim status. This case study provides an initial examination of interim leadership in the domain of college athletics by focusing on a specific high-profile interim coach’s initial press conference. The authors specifically consider the content of The Ohio State University football coach Luke Fickell’s first press conference after being named interim head coach. Their analysis reveals that Fickell strategically managed the interim label and the temporal nature of the interim role, balanced service goals and career-aspirant ones, and performed collective identity through a variety of means. The implications of these practices for interim coaches in college athletics are discussed.

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Lindsey J. Meân and Jeffrey W. Kassing

The purpose of this study was to examine identity and spectator/fan communication at youth sporting events. Data were collected through naturalistic observation of 44 youth sporting events. The median age range of the athletes was 6–11 years. Critical discourse analysis revealed the enactment of overlapping and conflicting identities (sports fan/spectator, coach, and parent) and the re/production of the ideology of winning (at all costs) and aggressive competition, rather than participation, support, and “unconditional” encouragement. In particular, the enactment or performance of sports identities, including identification with athletes, was observed to overlap with the enactment of parental identities and identification with children in ways that suggested that the salient issue was enhancement of parent self-categorization as sports spectator/fan, coach, and parent of a great athlete through the success of the child-athlete. That is, talk and identity performance were less about the children and more about parents’ identities.